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Last updated: 1/25/2017
Home / Gallery Tour 1 / Old Master Drawings and Prints / Gallery Tour 2 / Artists
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Pierre Alechinsky (b. 1927): The Year of the Snake I

The Dog King / Boxes / Central Park / Critters / Drawings / Faces / Grandes Marges / Hors Texte
Labyrinths / Landscapes / Maps / Mark-Making / Screamers / Snakes / Transformations / Venice / Volcanoes
In the Chinese calendar, the Year of the Snake comes every twelve years. For Pierre Alechinsky, a founding member of COBRA (an acronym for the cities that contributed members to the group, Copenhagen, Brussels, and Amsterdam), the Year of the Snake can be an auspicious one. In 1977, also the Year of the Snake, Alechinsky was awarded the first Andrew W. Mellon Prize for Painting and executed one of the prints we are featuring, also called The Year of the Snake. Spaightwood Galleries began in 1980, so we missed our 1977 observance, but by 1989, Alechinsky's Guggenheim retrospective (which had been traveling in Europe for almost two years) had finally come to its end, and Spaightwood presented our first major Alechinsky show and purchased a small oil painting on canvas by the artist. In 2001, we once again celebrated the Year of the Snake with an Alechinsky show, founded upon our acquisition of large numbers of the two pieces published in 1977 to celebrate his Mellon prize and augmented by many more recent etchings and lithographs published by Galerie Lelong. Now, in 2013, as the Year of the Snake winds down to its close no sooner than mid-April, we are presenting our largest Alechinsky show to date. In our Upton space, we can fit more Alechinskys on the walls than ever before—97 on the walls (some of them quite large) and more leaning against the bookshelves beneath the walls where the others are hanging—and we plan to luxuriate in lots of Alechinsky's favorite images: maps, Papiers traités, Central Park, snakes, volcanoes, gardens, dog-kings, smiling crocodiles and sea monsters, and people existing as best they can in a world that often seems to invite extreme emotional responses. (Sometimes you just want to scream!) We are featuring lots of Alechinsky's favorite images: Central Park, snakes, volcanoes, gardens, dog-kings, smiling crocodiles and sea monsters, and people existing as best they can in a world that often seems to invite extreme emotional responses. (Sometimes you just want to scream!) Still, the central act of Alechinsky's art is the making of marks on a sheet of paper, on a canvas, on a copperplate, on a lithographic stone: for that is what distinguishes artists (visual or verbal) from destroyers.
Small-format lithographs from 1950 to 1978: first half of entry from left (top row): Sans titre (A. 61), 1950); Remarques (A. 190), 1960); Les yeux verts (A. 157), 1962; Hors texte I (A. 149), 1962); Hors texte II (A. 150), 1962; first half of entry from left (bottom row): Just like that (A. 206), 1963); Sans titre II (A. 207) 1963); Snake Fish (1977), Schismes I (1979).
Les yeux verts s / The green eyes (A. 157)). Original color lithograph, 1962. 75 signed & numbered impressions plus 3000 unsigned impressions for an exhibition catalogue. Needless to say, ours is one of the 3000 unsigned impressions. Alechinsky, the first winner of the Andrew W. Mellon Prize for Painting (1977) and the French Grand Prix National for Painting in 1984, was one of the founders of the COBRA Group in 1948. Image size: 185x175mm.
Just like that (A. 206). Original color lithograph, 1963. 120 signed & numbered impressions plus 3000 unsigned impressions for an exhibition catalogue. This drawing was reproduced on the cover of a work on interpretation of literary texts, Resistant Structures: Particularity, Radicalism, and Renaissance Texts by Richard Strier, published by the University of California Press in 1995. Image size: 190x185mm. Price: $750.
Snake Fish. Original color lithograph, 1977. 100 signed and numbered impressions on Arches paper published with the deluxe edition of Pierre Alechinsky: Paintings and Writings (Pittsburgh: Carnegie-Mellon Institute, 1977) on the occasion of his award of the Andrew W. Mellon Prize for Painting. Image size: 300x210mm. Price: $1250. A signed copy of Pierre Alechinsky: Paintings and Writings will accompany the first purchase of the lithograph (after that, we are all sold out of singed copies of the book, but will be happy to offer an unsigned copy of the book until we are sold out of them as well).
Hors texte V (A. 153), 1962; Hors texte VI (A. 154), 1962; Serpent de terre (A. 182); bottom row: Schismes II (1979), Schismes IV (1979); Labyrinthe et reine / Crapaud et labyrinthe (A. 249-250).
Schismes I. Original color lithograph, 1978. 150 signed & numbered porfolios (of which ours was n. 16/150) plus 20 artist's proofs and 10 HC proofs. Printed by Clot, Bramson and Georges in Paris; published by Maeght Editeur. A text by E. M. Cioran that accompanies this work: "If the balance underlying all forms stifles the spirit, health itself is extinguished altogether." Image size: 325x240mm. Price: $1800.

Cioran was a Romanian by birth who came to Paris after the end of World War II. Among his Paris friends were Mircea Eliade, Eugène Ionesco, Paul Celan, Samuel Beckett, and Henri Michaux. I suspect that their connection was the result of Alechinsky's interest in the Tgheatre of the Absurd.
Labyrinthe et reine / Crapaud et labyrinthe (A. 249-250). Original etchings, 1965. 60 signed & numbered impressions. These two etchings were both printed on the same sheet and signed by Alechinksy and by Alberto Gironella (Mexican, 1929-1999), with whom Alechinsky collaborated. Alechinsky seems to enjoy such joint ventures and has also collablorated with Karel Appel and Christian Dotrement (among others). Gironella, a Mexican surrealist painter and promoter of literature and the arts, would have been a congenial partner to Alechinsky, with whom he seems to have shared many common interests. Image size: 249x159mm. Price: $1750.
Serpent de terre (A. 192). Original color etching, 1962. 60 signed and numbered impressions on Rives paper (of which ours is n. 20/60) printed at Imprimerie Lacourière, Paris. This rare early piece presents us with one of Alechinsky's favorite subjects, a snake (he was one of the founders of the COBRA Group, after all). The serpent lower right is curled about a disembodied head; the one upper left is admiring yet another. The figure top left looks interestingly like a playing-card portrait of a king such as the one who had his tarts stolen by the Knave of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland. Image size: 232x178mm. Price: $3250.
Small-format lithographs and etchings from 1980 to 1992: top row: Promenade sur plan (1983), Conseiler aulique (1980), Writing book (this is the central portion of a larger composition of the same title and served as Aimée Maeght's New Year's card to his American customers in 1984), Emortilys (1984); bottom row: Ces robes qui m'evoquaient Venise I-IV).
Conseiler aulique / Aulic Counselor. Original color lithograph, 1980. 100 signed and numbered impressions on Arches paper (of which ours is n. 91/100). Although the title conjures up an image of a classical philosopher, the Alechinsky portrays his philosopher more as what Erasmus' Folly might call a "foolosopher." Alechinsky, the first winner of the Andrew W. Mellon Prize for Painting (1977) and the French Grand Prix National for Painting in 1984, was one of the founders of the COBRA group in 1948. Image size: 220x180mm. Price: $1250.
Small-format etchings from 1987 to 1992: top row: Vers l'eau (1983), Aux petits soins / care (1989), L'empereur d'occident (1989), Ink (1989); bottom row: Ces robes qui m'evoquaient Venise V (1988), L'epreuve II (1989), Chapeau d'ecriture / Writing Hat or Hat made of writing (1987), and L'avenir de la propriété / The future of the property (1992).
Ink. Original color etching, 1989. 90 signed and numbered impressions on hand-made rice paper (of which ours is n. 26/90). Chairman Mao famously said that all power comes out of the barrell of a gun; I suspect that Alechinsky would reply, creation comes out of a bottle of ink with a pen seeking a surface upon which the act of creation can play out. As the poet William Carlos Williams might have said had he been an artist, so much depends upon a pen, dipping into a bottle of ink, hovering over a blank sheet of paper. Image size: 165x110mm. Price: $2750.
L'avenir de la propriété / The future of the property. Original color etching, 1989. 60 signed and numbered impressions upon pages of an old historical manuscript (of which ours is n. 26/60). The sheet is headed "1565" and is concerned with the events of the time. On top of it, however, Alechinsky has superimposed an uncapped bottle of ink out of which is rising a large black question mark rising from it. Although numbered 24/60, each of the images must differ with the paper. Image size: 130x78 (imprinted image only). Price: $3250.
Hors texte III-IV (A. 151-152), 1962); Hors texte VII-VIII (A. 155-156), 1962; Que se passe--t-il? / What's happening? (A. 189), 1963; Tireur de langue profilé / Tongue-puller in Profile (A. 232), 1964.
Que se passe--t-il? / What's happening? (A. 189). Original color lithograph, 1963. 100 signed & numbered impressions on Arches (of which ours is n. 15/100) plus an edition (c. 1000 impressions?) signed and titled in the stone for an Alechinsky exhibition at the Stedelijk van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven. Image size: 330x505mm. Price: $3500.

We also have one of the unsigned impressions (with the usual centerfold available for $850.
Tireur de langue profilé / Tongue-puller in profile (A. 232). Original color lithograph, 1964. 80 signed & numbered impressions on Arches (of which ours is n. 21/80) as well as signed, dated, and titled in the stone. Image size: 330x505mm. Price: $3000.

There were also 2600 impressions on "papier offset" (thin smooth paper) with no margins signed, dated, and titled in the stone for use as a New Year's Card by the Galerie de France. (I would imagine that the edition for a card would probably have either a center fold or a double fold for mailing, but the catalogue raisonné does not indicate that it did) .
Venice (A. 110), 1960); Six Leçons / Six Lessons (A. 339), 1967; Maitresse vague / Mother of all Waves, 1981; D'une venue / In coming (1984); Dame Taride (1991).
Six leçons / Six Lessons. (A. 339). Original etching on Japonese rice paper, each sheet of which is unique, 1967. 30 signed & numbered impressions, of which we have numbers 5/30 and 2/30. One of Alechinsky's rarest and most beautiful prints. The six tightly-packed images sit in the center of a much larger sized sheet of hand-made Japanese rice paper, and the tension of the contrast between the black and beige etchings and the lush and luxurious rice paper give the work a tension it might not have had on plain white paper. We have another impression of this work on another sheet of paper. Because the paper is different, the overall look and feel differs as well. Image size:180x240mm. Price: $3250.
Maitresse vague / The mother of all waves. Original color lithograph, 1981. 150 signed & numbered impressions on Arches paper of which ours is n. 58/150. Published by Maeght Editeur in Paris. Alechinsky seems to love the possibility of disaster—or at least he seems to love mocking those who fear disasters everywhere. We have long loved Alechinsky's art precisely because there does not seem to be any imminent danger of the worst things coming to pass. Image size:407x570mm. Price: $2750.

P.S. The paper is a uniform white from top to bottom.
D'une venue. Incoming Original color lithograph, 1984. 150 signed & numbered impressions on Arches paper of which ours is n. 8/150 plus an unknown edition (c. 2000 impressions) signed in the stone. The war between the sexes as Punch and Judy might have waged it. Alechinsky, the first winner of the Andrew W. Mellon Prize for Painting (1977) and the French Grand Prix National for Painting in 1984, was one of the founders of the COBRA Group in 1948. Image size: 315x440mm. Price: $1500.

P.S. The paper is a uniform white from top to bottom.

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